A couple of years ago PLM wasnt something that appealed to Autodesks CEO, Carl Bass. "Its a load of crap", he said, "something that the big vendors like Dassault, Siemens and PTC invented to get more money from their customers".
That was a bold statement even in 2007 when he said it, but the great thing about an open mindset is that people can change. And Bass did. Today Autodesk is one of the most enthusiastic PLM advocates on the market. More specifically, a PLM in the Cloud advocate.
Bass laughed out loud when I reminded him about his statement back in 2007 during the recent Autodesk University in Las Vegas. "But, you know I was right then because we didnt have the Cloud", he countered, "now we do and this really changed it all".
He was persuaded by the facts, he said, and once there was a way to deploy PLM it made sense. And so now he has great expectations, "Definitely, when people see it (PLM 360) and what its capable of we are confident that it will make them want to change. In some cases there are those that will not change quickly or companies that will change differentially on different fronts; but generally things are underway".
So, what about Autodesks market penetration for their Cloud offering? How far have their customers come in terms of PLM in the Cloud? In general, are they ready for the Cloud?
The optimism of Autodesks chief is underscored by the fact that the
company has been the most successful "newcomer" in the PLM market during
the last couple of years. It may be surprising that Autodesk can be a
newcomer given how long time they have been in the 3D CAD, CAE and PDM
market, but the PLM concept extends beyond point solutions. According to
analyst Gartners definition, "Product life cycle management is a
philosophy, process and discipline supported by software for managing
products through the stages of their life cycles, from concept through
It was not until as late as 2012 that the analyst CIMdata "accepted"
Autodesk on its list of the PLM Mindshare Leaders, an exclusive group of
companies that includes Dassault, Siemens PLM, PTC, SAP and Oracle.
Today Autodesk is on CIMdatas top 7 list when it comes to market
share based on direct PLM revenues in 2013 (partners direct revenues
included, royalties excluded):
1. Dassault Systemes, 7.7%
2. Autodesk, 6%
3. Siemens PLM, 5.7 %
4. IBM, 4.2%
5. PTC, 3.7 %
6. SAP, 2.8 %
7. Oracle 1.8 %
Source: CIMdata 2014 ("PLM Market Categories – three major segments comprise the PLM Market: cPDM – collaborative Product Data Management, Tools - Authoring, analysis, modeling, simulation and documentation of product and plant/facility information, Digital Manufacturing - process planning, resource definition, factory floor layout and product flow simulation and analysis.)
PLM from Autodesk: Digital Prototyping and the Cloud
The solution that got Autodesk onto this list was a combination of the
"Digital Prototyping" (DP) concept and the set of tools for PLM in the
Cloud (the PLM 360 solution is today a part of "Digital Prototyping").
However Autodesks cloud services also include AutoCAD 360, (Inventor)
Fusion 360, Simulation 360 and CAM 360.
The idea of DP is to bring together siloed software covering the
product development phases, and to a limited extent areas like factory
design, maintenance and sales & marketing.
All of this is framed by the programs in the Product Design Suite
which has solutions for conceptual design (like AutoCAD, Alias), PDM
(Vault), engineering (Inventor, AutoCAD Electrical and Mechanical),
simulation (Autodesk Simulation, Moldflow, Simulation CFD),
manufacturing (Factory Design Suite), and some additional things
Features in PLM 360 are:
* Bill of Materials management (BOM)
* Change management - Engineering Change Requests (ECR) and Engineering Change Orders (ECO)
* New product introduction tools (NPI)
* Supplier collaboration
* Quality management
* Cost management
Generally Autodesks portfolio - the Cloud solutions included - can
be regarded as a viable PLM alternative for small-to-midsized companies.
But this doesnt mean that the large corporations dont use Autodesk
programs. On the contrary, big companies like SKF, Sandvik and Tetra Pak
often have hundreds, if not thousands, of licenses of AD software.
So far the move to the Cloud has been measured
Nobody said that it is easy to establish new technology. Its a job that
demands great ideas, inspiration and a lot of hard work as well as
timing and financial resilience.
Moving to the Cloud is a good example of a challenge that will force
Autodesk to face a couple of tough years before they eventually will
reach their goals. Generally it doesnt matter how good the underlying
structures of the new technologies are; as long as they contain more
complex elements, users wont adopting them overnight. This was true for
PLM and its going to be true for PLM in the Cloud.
Analyst CIMdata agrees,"So far Autodesks move to the Cloud has been
measured, with adoption coming from existing as well as new clients.
While the progress has been steady, we dont expect Autodesks business
to change overnight. In the case of Cloud-based PLM solutions, adoption
has generally been measured, with small to mid-sized companies adopting
more quickly than larger ones."
The fact that Autodesk has chosen this path can be a chatalyst for
change,"Thatss right", says CIMdatas Peter Bilello, "in general we
expect the revenue generated from Cloud-based PLM solutions to increase
over the upcoming years at a steady rate. A limiting factor is that many
companies are still concerned that placing their product knowledge in
the Cloud could be a threat."
CIMdata, however, doesnt believe that security is an issue because
Autodesk and others are building comprehensive solutions that are as
secure as anything a single company could do or afford on their own.
The problem of replacing behind the firewall solutions
This is also in line with what Autodesks Director of Industry Strategy
and Marketing, Ron Locklin, claims,"When we began selling PLM 360 in
early 2012, there were many questions about security in the cloud, data
ownership and the physical location of servers. These were probably the
most prevalent concerns we heard. But times have changed. Business
consumers of SaaS-based enterprise apps are getting more comfortable
with these areas, as the solutions become more prevalent in the CRM,
ERP, and consumer worlds."
He also points out that Autodesk have invested heavily in security;
"in certifying our environment and servers, so that our customers feel
secure; and overall, it is pretty apparent many businesses know that a
cloud-based system in reality is as secure as what their own IT
department and investments can ensure".
There are other angles the security issue. Certain markets demand
"behind the firewall solutions", such as military, aerospace with strong
security concerns, government as well as heavily regulated industries.
These may require software apps certification with every new release of
"We see adoption as lower in these markets", Ron says and adds, "That
said, we are constantly being asked by government agencies, systems
integrators and heavily regulated companies about how and when they can
jump onto this trend and take advantage of it".
The main arguments for investement in PLM 360
Security and IP protection seems to remain the most important obstacle
to PLM in the Cloud. These concerns are not reflected in Carl Bass view
of how things are going. "We are way ahead of plan and even more
successful than we imagined", he said in Las Vegas and asserted that
Autodesks PLM business has already taken off.
Ron Locklin agrees, boiling down "many, many reasons to invest in PLM 360" to two main arguments: